How are changing attitudes to provenance of food and materials influencing a new vanguard of chefs, community activists and designers? /
How our future will be shaped by food and design has always been a source of debate. Today, our over reliance on non-renewable energy and materials, ever increasing levels of consumption levels and our attitude to waste are just a few examples of the issues exacerbated by current methods of sourcing and manufacture. Put frankly, we can, and should do better.
Potential solutions tend to fit into two camps. On one side are the advocates of craft who herald a localised approach to sourcing food and materials, and a return to traditional methods of production. On the other, the advocates of technology, not just the lobbyists hired by global manufacturers and agrifood companies, but also a growing band of scientists and designers seeking completely new ways to engender sustainable supply and demand.
This post looks at a few examples from both sides of the debate. The common thread between them is an innovative approach to sourcing either food or materials (and in some cases both). We hope you find them as interesting as we do.
Joost Bakker : Greenhouse /
As part of this year's Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, Joost Bakker built this popup cafe. Although pop-ups are certainly nothing new, (and this is in fact the third incarnation of this particular pop-up) what makes this one special is it's eco credentials and attention to detail. The Greenhouse is built from recycled materials and produces no waste whatsoever, even the human waste from the urinals is saved to be used as fertilizer for next year's crop. In terms of the food itself, everything is considered, the flour for pasta and bread is milled onsite daily, strawberries grow on the vertical garden walls, herbs and salad on the roof and all other produce is a locally sourced as possible. The plan is to eventually apply the lessons learned from the pop-ups on a permanent site.
Christien Meindertsma : The Flax Project /
Perhaps best known for her project Pig 05049, since 2009 Meindertsma has been working alongside local craftspeople and farmers in her native Holland to create a series of objects made from flax and wood. The philosophy behind the project is to create objects that are completely locally sourced from seed through to the final product. Flax was historically one of Holland's biggest exports and by embracing traditional materials and craft techniques Meindertsma is returning a small pocket of the Dutch landscape to it's former life.
The Russet /
The Russet is a cafe and arts venue based in Hackney Downs Studio. As much of the produce is made and grown in the borough as possible and everything else is sourced from nearby. Even their soft drinks are made in house and have names like "Dalston Cola" and "Ginger Fiyah". Founded by Steve Wilson who is heavily involved in the popular Dalston People's Kitchen, Wilson is also a passionate food waste campaigner which means the Russet also hosts Freegan events such as the "Forgotten Feast", where the menu is made from surplus & discarded food that would otherwise be consigned to landfill. If this sounds unappealing, check out the menu for the last event, we reckon it will win you over....
Alexander Groves, Kieran Jones and Azusa Murakami : The Sea Chair Project /
Spotted last year as part of Sustain RCA this project is a thoughtful example of how design could help the fishing industry deal with the issue of accumulating plastic waste in oceans. The proposal is to convert a retired fishing trawler into a mobile chair manufacturing plant, the raw material would be waste plastic trawled from the ocean and would put directly into manufacture on the boat. If put into practice this could not only improver the conditions of our oceans but also provide a source of alternative employment for skilled UK fishermen in increasingly tough times.
See their full proposal here.
Something & Son : FARM:shop /
Located in a once derelict shop in Dalston, FARM:shop is an experimental urban food hub and community space. Within the walls, roof and garden of the building are hyrdroponic indoor allotment, rooftop chicken coop, an 'acquaponic' micro fish farm and polytunnels for growing vegetables. The space is the brainchild of Something & Son, who run the space in association with Hackney council and a troop of volunteers. The space is also used for events such as the Trade School where you can "barter for knowledge" offering your skills and objects in exchange for the skills and knowledge of others. FARM:shop is a brilliant example of just how food can be used as a basis for bringing communities together.
Marcelo Coehlo + MIT Fablab : Edible Printing /
Anyone who read the recent interview in Icon Magazine with Coehlo could not fail to be intrigued. At present this is simply a machine which prints chocolate to order, which to be honest is incredibly similar to machines already used in industrial food processing. However the potential of this technology within the home is where it gets interesting, edible printing would enable us to communicate using food, you could send a loved one living on the other side of the world a birthday cake or a taste of home. It also changes the role of the chef from a hands on role to that of curator.
Max Lamb : The Pewter Project /
Max Lamb's work often involves the use of materials local to the area in which his work is commisioned. With the Pewter Project he has taken a material traditionally sourced in Cornwall, Pewter, and created a series of products using sand casting techniques on local Caerhays beach. The result here is a dining table crafted using only the fuel used to power the mobile heaters that melt the pewter. This project doesn't just tip it's hat to the materials and technques of the past, it also provides a potential blueprint for small scale producers encoruaging use of the local environment as well as local materials to create the objects we consume.
A Lettuce A Drop : Pauline Vierne /
Part of the Steam Cells project, Vierne is asking what will happen in the future if we are no longer able to farm? Can our nutritious requirements be met by Laboratories? Could we end up purchasing sustenance in pharmaceutical capsules? The image shown above somehow manages to make the idea seem appealing, although in practice we suspect not.
Insects Au Gratin : Susanna Soares, Steak Studio and Pestival /
'Insects Au Gratin' looks at alternatives to our current diet. By combining 3D printing technology and the use of insects as an alernative source of protein. It looks not just at how we can feed ourselves in a world of depleteing natural resources but also our perceptions of food and nourishment. An insect is actually a far more efficient source of protein: "100 kg of feed produces 40 kg of crickets, but only 10 kg of beef."
e5 Bakehouse /
The e5 Bakehouse is an artisan bakery and cafe located in London Fields, Hackney. Nestled in an archway underneath the railway tracks Ben MacKinnon and his team bake fresh bread each day to supply local businesses and residents. The bread is made from locally milled flour and they try to reduce as much of their wastage as possible, they also do all their deliveries by bicycle. Not just a working bakery, they also teach breadmaking classes and work with other artisan producers across the city to create a collaborative network of producers.
Post by Claire Gittins.